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June 28, 2021 25 min

On this episode of Got Your 6, Tony Nash talks with Mike Erwin, the founder and executive director of Team Red, White, and Blue (Team RWB), a non-profit that connects veterans to the local communities through sports. Mike talks about how he stays fit physically and mentally and shares some actionable advice on how he manages his time, improves himself, and navigates his time and schedule to achieve maximum results.

Mental and Physical Fitness

Mike’s time in the Army continues to impact his life – from as simple as his affinity for the Jacob’s ladder (which began during a 2009 Afghanistan deployment) to subscribing to a solid routine and working out in the morning. While he is not as physically active as he was during the Army, he says he’s now back at it “with a vengeance.”

The two books that have made an impact on his life and that he keeps on re-reading are:

  • 100 Ways to Motive Yourself (2012) by Steve Chandler helps a person create an action plan for living his vision in business and in life. 
  • The Alchemist (1993) by Paolo Coelho, a fiction that tells the story of a shepherd boy Santiago, who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.
  • Citing the lessons from The Alchemist, Mike is a big believer that everything happens for a reason and that failures pave the road to success.

    “It can be dangerous when we tell that to other people: ‘Ah, everything happens for a reason, don’t worry about it.’ But the reality is, if you take that approach and that view into life, that the setbacks and the adversity and the mistakes that you made – while it feels like in the moment you’re like ‘Ugh that was terrible, what a big mistake!’ – if you can learn to see that for what it is… A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

    On Failures as Temporary Setbacks

    Mike is also the co-founder & president of The Positivity Project, a non-profit group that aims to empower the youth to build positive relationships. But it took several hiccups along the way before the organization became what it is today. Mike and his partner committed a big mistake when they used philanthropy as the organization’s business model. They later realized it was not feasible for their business, which focuses on character education because schools already have a budget for that. So they tweaked their model – from seeking grants to building a business that would make schools want to pay them for training, curriculum, and resources, among others. That huge mistake proved to be their key to success to have a sustainable business.

    Urgent vs Important and the Importance of Tracking Time 

    In 2014, Mike learned to view things using the Eisenhower Box, which helps a person decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. It helps users sort out less urgent and important tasks which could be either delegated or ignored.

    Another thing that has transformed his life is tracking his time. He tracks if he has spent too long on emails, if he has not exercised much in a week, or has done things for leisure, such as golf.

    Mike said this becomes very important in making sure you have as much time as possible to spend on important but not urgent things, such as relationships planning, eating, health, and exercising. These activities are usually those that get ignored easily.

    He says he applies this in menial tasks such as getting rid of cables in the house and deleting useless apps from his phone – things that take his time mindlessly. A 32-hectare farm owner, Mike says he makes most of his business decisions while working on the property.

    On Constant Improvement and His Personal Relationship with Technology

    Mike likens constant self-improvement to tango – 2 steps forward, one step back – as growth is not linear. He also believes growth comes at a gradual pace.

    As he counts time, Mike says he has improved his relationship with technology and the digital world, although not perfect. There are days he would turn them off, but other days, he finds himself sticking with his phone. It’s ok to make mistakes, he said, but you go on and try harder next time.

    Being cautious with your relationship with tech allows you to ensure that it does not put distance between you and the people you love and the people right in front of you. Citing author Cal Newport, Mike warns that there’s a “cost to your incessant obsession with information.”

    In his 2019 book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Newport makes a persuasive case for it, saying simply turning off notifications won’t cut it. What is needed is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions. He defines digital minimalism as a "philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else."


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